While Tesla’s solar panels and Solar Roof are certainly not as well known as their vehicles, they are taking off and creating quite a stir with their competitors. Tesla provides free estimates to its solar systems on their website and aims to become a major name and competitor within the solar field.
Tesla’s solar options do have competition, but they excel when it comes to cost, durability, and effectiveness, being at the same standard or better than their competition in almost all cases.
But how do the Tesla solar systems compare to other manufacturers on the market? What are the advantages and disadvantages? This guide will compare the Tesla solar panels to the Tesla Solar Roof and both of Tesla’s solar solutions to other solar systems like SunPower, Panasonic, and LG.
Tesla Solar Systems
Tesla forayed into the solar energy market back in 2016, when Elon Musk decided to acquire SolarCity Corporation out of Fremont, California. SolarCity was founded in 2006 with a mission to provide solar power systems to residential homes. By 2011, SolarCity acquired groSolar and the solar vertical division of Clean Currents.
In 2016, they fully merged into Tesla when it was acquired for $2.6 billion in stock. SolarCity used to only provide solar system installation and services to its customers, but after being acquired by Tesla, they expanded their offering to include the acclaimed Solar Roof in 2017.
In 2020, Tesla released the third version of the Solar Roof, which is more durable and lower cost than the preceding versions, making it quite an attractive option. In fact, Tesla provides a great offering of solar systems and accessories to suit almost anyone’s needs. Their offerings include:
- Solar panels
- The Solar Roof
- Solar inverters
- Powerwall batteries
- The Tesla app
Armed with these solar options and features, Tesla is prepared to outfit any consumer with a custom solar system solution to start converting sunlight to power for their home. In fact, despite their short history, they are quite a well-known competitor to other companies.
Tesla Solar Panels
The solar panels that Tesla offers on their website are not made by them. They are Tesla-branded, however. Their solar panels used to be exclusively made by Panasonic, but more recently, Tesla has been utilizing other manufacturers to make their branded products.
Recent reports indicate that a Korean company called Hanwha supplies most of Tesla’s solar panels now. Whatever solar panel you get, rest assured that Tesla will fully test, verify, and ensure it meets their strict quality standards.
The pricing of Tesla’s solar panels is available on their website. They include information on tax incentives, break-even periods, and an estimate on how much money you can save on your power bill each month.
For a standard residential home, you can expect to pay around $25,000 for 12.24 kW solar panels and the solar inverter. After the federal tax credit, which is over $6,000 for this system, your net expense would be around $18,000.
Tesla also provides information on solar panel systems with different kilowatt capacities. After all, kilowatts matter a lot when it comes to a Tesla system, especially when it comes to how many panels and how much money will be involved. The chart below provides some examples:
|Kilowatt||4.08 kW||8.16 kW||12.24 kW||16.32 kW|
|Daily Solar Production||15-19 kWh||30-38 kWh||44-56 kWh||59-75 kWh|
|Self Power %||41%||46%||46%||46%|
|Monthly Bill Reduction||$55/month||$110/month||$140/month||$140+/month|
|25 Year Savings||$15,000||$30,000||$35,000||$35,000|
|Break-Even Period||9 Years||9 Years||10 Years||13 Years|
The above table used a $150/month average monthly power bill (before solar) as the reference for the solar reduction to the monthly bill. The break-even period is the time it takes for the monthly power bill savings to exceed your initial price to install the solar panels. Keep all of this in mind when considering the competition.
Tesla Solar Panels Versus the Competition
There are many solar panel manufacturers in the world, and it is a rapidly growing industry. Engineers are working hard to improve solar efficiencies and reduce their costs to release a new competitive product.
In the US, there are two main solar panel competitors to Tesla, which are SunPower and LG.
Located in San Jose, SunPower is an American energy company that was founded in 1985. They manufacture solar cells, solar panels, and energy storage batteries. It is a publicly-traded company under the stock ticker SPWR.
SunPower’s main product is their high-efficiency solar cell, which is called Maxeon. They integrate the Maxeon cell in all the solar panels they manufacture and sell. They also manufacture the highest efficiency and highest wattage panels on the market. SunPower makes four different types of panels, which are:
- A Series: This series uses the 5th generation of Maxeon solar cells, comes in a 400W size, and boasts a 22.3% solar efficiency.
- X Series: This series boasts 22.7% efficiency, provides around 370 watts, and it is great for space-constrained areas because of a smaller size.
- E Series: This series is available in 320, 327, or 345-watt sizes and has a 20% efficiency. This is their run-of-the-mill solar panel.
- P Series: This series has roughly 19% efficiency. Panel sizes are 380-400 watts and are intended for large commercial projects, like warehouses.
Warranty and Features
SunPower provides a great warranty of 25 years. However, it is not just the length that is fantastic. The warranty terms are wonderful too. Here are some highlights of what is covered:
- 100% of repair and replacement costs on defective parts
- Damage in shipping
- 8% DC power decline after 25 years
- 90% peak systems AC power
Their solar panels have built-in microinverters that optimize power conversion directly on the panel. They also include the fifth version of the solar cell that SunPower originally invented decades ago.
All series of panels are built from high-quality materials with excellent corrosion resistance. Because their panels last so long, they are confident with offering such a great warranty.
One major downside with SunPower is that they only offer their services in 26 US states, so if you live outside of these states, SunPower will not even be an option for you. Thankfully there are other options.
Headquartered in Korea, LG is a large conglomerate corporation with many different divisions. LG is mostly known for their consumer electronics, but they have many divisions, ranging from chemical to appliances and, more recently, solar panels.
LG began offering their solar panels to the US in 2020 and simultaneously launched their new solar panel product line, the LG NeON® 2. In the US, LG’s solar panels are manufactured in a plant they opened in 2019 in Alabama. LG provides a lineup of solar panels as well, which include:
- NeON 2 Panel: LG’s most common/standard panel
- NeON R Panel: A high-performance panel
- NeON R Prime Panel: A premium, modern solar panel
- NeON R ACe Panel: A high power, smart AC solar panel
All of LG’s panels incorporate the “Cello” technology with their monocrystalline N-type solar cell. This sounds fancy, but it is just a technical term for the technology that converts sunlight into usable energy.
LG’s solar technology provides great performance, efficiency, and high power output. Their 25-year warranty provides guarantees of reliability, quality, and durability. Their warrant covers performance (90% power output after 25 years), product, and labor for the full 25 years.
How SunPower and LG Stack up Against Tesla
SunPower leads the way with the best solar efficiency, narrowly beating LG and Tesla by less than 1 percent. 22% to 23% is not a huge difference and will have a minuscule effect on your overall energy savings. For solar efficiency, even though SunPower is higher, it is essentially a tie amongst all three manufacturers. Let us compare:
|Warranty||25 Years||25 Years||25 Years|
|Performance||Great Durability||Great Durability||Greatest Durability|
|Extra Benefits||Price matching, the system integrates with Tesla app and products||Best warranty terms- the whole system is covered, as well as defect removal and install of new parts||Multiple panel options, “smart panels,” simple to install|
|Cost||Same or lower (through price matching)||Generally lower cost than Tesla||Can be higher or lower, depending on panel type|
Tesla Solar Roof
It is worth noting that Tesla’s Solar Roof is a completely different product from their solar panels. The Solar Roof completely replaces your traditional roof tiles or shingles with tempered glass solar shingles.
The Solar Roof is made from interlocking roof tiles that are manufactured with embedded solar cells. The solar cells are interlinked and absorb energy from the sun, collect it as DC power, and pass it along to the solar inverter. The inverter then converts the DC power to AC power to be used by your home. It can also:
- Provide excess power back to the grid
- Provide power from the grid to your home during non-peak solar times
The Tesla Solar Roof has the following performance specifications, cost, savings, and break-even period. The below data is based on an average 2,000 square foot home with a monthly electric bill of $150 before solar installation.
|Daily Solar Production||25-32 kWh|
|Self Power %||45%|
|Monthly Bill Reduction||$100/month|
|25 Year Savings||$15,000|
|Break-Even Period||15 Years|
You may have noticed that the Tesla Solar Roof costs a lot more than the Tesla solar panels. So what gives? Remember, the Solar Roof is also a replacement for your roof, not just a solar system. So think of the expense of the Solar Roof as an expense for a roof replacement and a solar system.
Tesla Solar Roof Versus the Competition
The Tesla Solar Roof was the first solar roof on the market when it was first made commercially available in 2017. From 2017, when they released version 1, to 2020, when they released version 3, Tesla spent a lot of time and investments into research and development to improve their Solar Roof.
The payoff to all the research and development was that commercially viable and easily mass-produced version 3. In recent years, other manufacturers have taken notice and begun to offer products similar to the Tesla Solar Roof, including Luma, Forward, Exasun, and CertainTeed.
Luma Solar Roof
Located in Rochester Hills, MI, Luma manufactures high-quality, luxury solar roofs. Their solar roofs are manufactured to look elegant and provide energy to the home. Luma’s solar roof system is the only upgradable solar shingle system on the market.
You may be surprised to find out that Luma invented solar roofs and has been in business since 2007. Luma was founded by two brothers, Robert and Gary, and continues to be owned by them. Luma has even completed solar projects all over the world.
Luma claims to provide the best curb appeal compared to any solar system on the market. Their solar roof certainly does look elegant and not at all like solar panels. It looks more like a designer roof than a solar system. However, it only works with sloped roofs. Luma offers two main options versions of their solar roof:
- Integrated shingles
- An edge-to-edge solar roof
The integrated shingles take the place of some of the shingles of your traditional roof, whereas the edge-to-edge system provides more coverage of your roof. As a premium option, Luma offers the “Mirage collection,” which they refer to as full coverage for the roof. Here are some of the differences between Luma’s three options:
|Roof type||Integrated Shingles||Edge-to-edge||Mirage Collection|
|Power Output||65 W per shingle||65 W per shingle||75 W per shingle|
|Power Warranty||25 Years||25 Years||25 Years|
|Installed Cost||$4.50 per watt||$38 per square foot||Special inquiries only|
Forward Solar Roofing
Forward Solar is a startup company based in the bay area of California. They do not have a commercially available product yet, but you can log onto their website and sign up to reserve a solar roof once it is released.
Forward was founded in 2017 and is currently only taking reservations in regions around San Francisco and Oakland in CA. Forward’s core principles are to provide:
- An elegant and timeless roof design
- High energy density system
- Cost-effective solutions
Forward Solar’s panels are made out of high-quality tempered glass, similar to Tesla, include a passive venting system (which is unique to the industry), and are available in five different colors. Forward Solar is the only company to offer color options on solar collection systems. Here are some of the key specifications of Forward Solar’s roof:
- 19 watts of power per square foot
- Solar roofing cost of around $4 per watt
- Non-solar roofing portion cost of around $13 per square foot
- 30-year weatherization warranty with a “40-year life guarantee”
Since Forward Solar does not have a mass-producible product yet, it is hard to compare competitively to the Tesla roof at this time, but it is a promising group to look at when it comes to solar roofing options.
Exasun is a European manufacturer of a solar roof and is based in the Netherlands. Their solar roofing systems offer great durability and efficiency, a high-performance ratio, and a beautiful design. It is completely manufactured in the Netherlands and is not available yet in the US.
Exasun got its start a few years ago when they launched their X-Glass Black glass module in April 2015. Since then, they have developed additional solar products, which now include:
- X-Glass: Low profile solar panels
- X-Facade: Solar panels that attach to the facade of large buildings instead of the roof
- X-Tile: A solar roofing tile that can be placed between various types of tiles and is available in multiple colors
- X-Roof: A solar roof with integrated solar cells
- X-Colour: Their unique color technology, which can be applied to any of their solar products
Since the X-Roof is the most similar product to the Tesla Solar Roof, it is best to focus on that for the sake of the comparison. It is a sloped roof that incorporates solar cells and collects sunlight. It functions and looks similar to the Tesla Solar Roof, but it is available in many colors, not just black.
The X-Roof is made out of durable tempered glass and was designed with fast installation in mind. Like the Tesla Solar Roof, it can withstand high impacts from hail without being damaged. The X-Roof is great for renovations, new constructions, and slanted roofs.
Since Exasun does not provide their product in the US and because energy costs are very different in Europe, it would be difficult to compare to Tesla’s Solar Roof side-by-side.
A US-based manufacturing company, CertainTeed produces building materials and solar roofs. CertainTeed is owned by Saint Gobain, a large French conglomerate. Their claim to fame in the solar world is providing premium solar systems, with their main 3 product lines being:
- Solar Panels: The Solstice product line
- Solar Shingles: The Apollo II system
- Solar Tiles: The Apollo Tile II system
You might be wondering what the difference is between solar shingles and solar tiles. Well, CertainTeed solar shingles are designed and shaped to look like regular shingles and replace your whole roof.
The solar tiles, on the other hand, are the same shape as standard clay tiles and can replace your whole roof or just integrate with your regular tiles.
How the Other Solar Roof Competitors Stack up Against Tesla
Exasun and Forward solar both have nice-looking products, but they are not yet a viable option for most people living in the US. Luma and CertainTeed do have commercially available solar roof systems, so take a look at how the Tesla Solar Roof compares to them.
|Solar System||Tesla Solar Roof||CertainTeed Apollo II||Luma Solar Roof|
|Warranty||25 Years||25 Years||25 Years|
|Performance||A+ Rating||A+ Rating||A+ Rating|
|Other||The system integrates with the Tesla app and products||Does not replace the whole roof||Provides more than one tile type|
CertainTeed and Luma both offer a similar 25-year warranty as Tesla. The Apollo II shingles do not replace or cover your entire roof, whereas one of the Luma systems does (similar to Tesla).
The major difference between the Apollo II and the Tesla Solar Roof is that the Apollo II solar shingle system is not an edge-to-edge roof. This means that the shingles integrate with your existing shingles and are not entirely replaced like with the Tesla Solar Roof.
In general, CertainTeed’s costs are a little higher, but consider that you will also have to cover the cost of the remaining traditional roof tiles or shingles and the maintenance associated with that.
If you prefer to have your entire roof the same texture and even look throughout, go with edge-to-edge solar roof coverage with either the Tesla or Luma systems. The main difference between Luma and Tesla is the installation cost, with Luma being higher on average, and the look of the solar tiles.
Tesla Versus Tesla – Solar Panels or Solar Roof?
Tesla’s solar panels compete with the other manufacturers on the market very well, as does their Solar Roof. Another difference Tesla has compared to the competition is its mobile app. With the app, you can monitor your complete solar system. You will be able to notice and fix high power draw issues quickly with the 24/7 monitoring capabilities.
But how do the Tesla Solar Roof and Tesla panels compare against one another, and why would you get one over the other? This decision entirely depends on the individual’s goals and desires, but here are some factors to weigh in your decision making:
- Curb Appeal: Does a solar panel or Solar Roof look better to you?
- Total Cost: How much are you willing to spend?
- Current Roof Condition: Do you need a new roof anyway?
- Power Requirements: How much energy do you need?
Things to Consider
One major factor you should consider is that the cost of a traditional roof plus solar panels are generally more than the Solar Roof. The Solar Roof kills two birds with one stone. Here is a look at how the Solar Roof and solar panels compare (again using a 2000 square foot home with a monthly electric bill of $150 for estimations):
|Tesla Solar System||Tesla Solar Roof||Tesla Solar Panels|
|Kilowatt||7.8 kW||8.16 kW|
|Self Power %||45%||46%|
|Cost after incentives||$20,000||$12,000|
|Roof Replacement Cost||Included in above||~$16,000|
|Monthly Bill Reduction||$100/month||$110/month|
|25 Year Savings||$20,000||$30,000|
|Break-Even Period||15 Years||9 Years|
As you can see, the upfront cost of the solar panels is much cheaper than the upfront cost of the Solar Roof. However, if you consider the cost of an average premium roof, which is around $16,000, the Tesla Solar Roof is the overall lower cost option. If you need a new roof or are building a new home, the Tesla Solar Roof is a better choice.
The Solar Roof is also more durable, has a longer warranty, and would need replacement much later than a traditional roof. You should consider these future cost savings as well when making your decision. You will also have to consider if you prefer the look of the solar tiles or the look of solar panels on top of a regular roof.
Compatibility with Other Solar Products
Both of Tesla’s solar system options work well with their other solar products, like the Powerwall, solar inverter, and solar app. Here is how these devices work together:
- Solar Inverter: It converts DC solar energy from your panels or Solar Roof to AC power for your home. It also controls the charging of Powerwall(s), provides and draws energy from the power grid or Powerwall(s), and monitors energy usage.
- Tesla Powerwall: It collects and stores solar energy for later use. It can provide energy at night, on cloudy days, or when the power grid is down. For Tesla aficionados, you can charge your Tesla car with the Powerwall.
- Tesla app: It not only connects to your car but also your solar system! You can monitor energy usage and absorption, Powerwall charge levels, and even control some aspects.
Should You Get the Tesla Solar Roof or Solar Panels?
It is easy to see that Tesla provides great solar products all around. They have a wonderful warranty and great customer support. If Tesla services the area you live in and you are looking to get a solar system for your home, you should consider their Solar Roof or solar panels.
Both Tesla’s Solar Roof and panels work seamlessly with the Tesla app and the Powerwall. With a Tesla solar system and one to ten Powerwalls, you can potentially store enough energy to power your home off the grid for close to 2 weeks!
Take some time and consider which system is right for you and if you should include a battery backup Powerwall. Whatever choice you make, you will be basking in the sun in no time!
Tesla provides easy online tools to estimate the cost to install a solar system, including solar panels, the Solar Roof, solar inverters, and Powerwall batteries at your home.
The great estimators also give you the advantage of providing information on the tax incentives you can receive in your area. For this reason, coupled with Tesla’s solar price matching, it would be a hard decision not to choose Tesla for your solar needs!